Welcome This Year’s Service Members!

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By Maddy Alewine, Communications Specialist

Asheville Area Habitat for Humanity is pleased to add seven new team members who, through programs including AmeriCorps, VISTA, and Hands and Feet of Asheville, are beginning their year of service. Service program participants significantly increase Asheville Habitat’s ability to empower Buncombe County residents with affordable housing.

Their impact is felt in nearly every corner of the organization. On the construction side, Jeannie Goldenberg and Chris Nolan have begun their year with the Home Repair team and will be joined by another AmeriCorps member, Lucas Hanson, in October. Accompanying Asheville Habitat’s three full-time Home Repair staffers, the AmeriCorps members double the team’s efforts to reach the fiscal year goal of 70 families served through the Home Repair program.

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Americorps Mackenzie Hampson served from 2018-2019 with the New Home construction team.

“We would not be able to meet this aggressive goal without the increased capacity provided by our AmeriCorps members,” notes Home Repair Manager Joel Johnson. “Specifically, having AmeriCorps members has enabled us to work with partner agencies to do more Aging in Place work in the past 12-18 months. This program serves some of the most vulnerable people in our community and is an increasingly large part of our team’s work.”

On the new home side of construction, Thomas Brennan is now leading volunteer groups in the building of new affordable homes at Curry Court in Candler. And in the administrative office, Krysta Osweiler, Cecily Schenimann, and Deanna McDonnell are working behind the scenes on volunteer management and recruitment, family services support and outreach, and office management.

While Asheville Habitat benefits from the generosity of these talented and driven individuals, participants benefit too. They look back

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Sydney Monshaw, AmeriCorps member from 2017 – 2019 spent two terms with Home Repair. She was recently hired on full-time as a Home Repair Supervisor.

at their service year as immensely rewarding and a powerful growth experience. In the past two years, after completing their terms, three AmeriCorps members were hired on as full-time Asheville Habitat staffers in the ReStore, in new home construction, and in the Home Repair department. Other service year members have gone on to graduate school, joined the workforce, or signed on for another year of service with Asheville Habitat or elsewhere.

Ryan Bing, an AmeriCorps member in 2017-2018 with Asheville Habitat’s Home Repair team, went to graduate school at Clemson University after completing his service year. During his year repairing homes in all corners of Buncombe County, he learned a wide range of technical skills as well as a lot about himself, he said.

“Honestly the nature of our job and the nature of Home Repair, involves doing a lot of unpleasant things sometimes and it can be incredibly humbling,” Bing said. “Not doing it specifically for a thank you or a salary or something like that- is something you can really carry forward in many aspects of life.”

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Ryan Bing, right, working alongside a volunteer during a community project at Asheville High School.

Got $10? Consider a monthly donation.

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by Greta Bush

Do you ever look at your credit card bill and wonder how it got to be so high? You didn’t make any major purchases. Then you look closely…$10 spent on a whim here, $6 spent there…it adds up! I, for one, can’t be trusted to walk into Target without a strict list or my husband holding onto my hand. (I kid! Sort of…) Everything is so pretty…so innovative…so alluring. And priced at that sweet spot! Meanwhile, I get to the checkout and immediately regret my life choices.

Think about how easily you spend $10 a month on consumer products without even realizing it. Now, consider making an intentional choice to make a recurring donation of $10 a month to Habitat! Asheville Area Habitat for Humanity builds affordable, energy-efficient homes and sells them to qualified buyers at no-profit. A monthly donation to Habitat’s #build828 sustained giving club will help Habitat raise money for this cause.

We’re all guilty of blowing cash from time to time. Here are some examples of how easily that money slips from our wallets…but would be put to better use supporting Asheville Habitat:

  1. Target

Let’s get real. Who only spends $10 on a Target run? Help build a house rather than filling yours with stuff from the Dollar Spot.

  1. Starbucks

$10 = 2 venti caramel macchiatos. Coffee tastes sweeter made in your own home—donate your money to Habitat to help keep housing affordable!

  1. Netflix

$10 is the cost of a monthly subscription. Rather than watching a family on reality TV, help change a real family’s future with a monthly donation to Habitat for Humanity.

Speaking of Netflix…

  1. T-mobile

Your Netflix subscription is included if you have T-mobile…so you’ve got an EXTRA $10 a month! Why not donate that money to a good cause?

  1. Spotify

$10 is the cost of a monthly subscription. Create a new soundtrack filled with the sound of kids playing safely outside in their Habitat neighborhood.

If this is ringing even a little bit true for you, click the button. Set it and forget it. #build828 is the kind of recurring spending we can all get behind!

 

Grand Opening Set for New ReStore

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Following a 9:30am ribbon cutting, we will officially open the doors to shoppers at 10am for the Weaverville ReStore Grand Opening celebration on Saturday, August 24th.  The community is invited to celebrate, shop, and enjoy give-aways, refreshments, and live radio (98.1).

Located in the Weaverville Crossings shopping plaza (61 Weaver Blvd.) in the space previously occupied by ACE Hardware, our new ReStore will offer much of the same merchandise as the flagship Asheville store: gently used furniture, housewares, appliances, building supplies, art and more. There will be a donation drop-off lane and plenty of parking. Hours will be 10am-6pm, Tuesday through Saturday.

“We are thrilled to join the Weaverville community and look forward to providing the northern part of the county with another source of affordable home goods, as well as a place for people to donate building materials, appliances, furniture and more,” added Susan Haynes, Weaverville ReStore Manager. Haynes, previously Assistant Manager of the Asheville ReStore, is joined by Eric Tamila, Weaverville ReStore Assistant Manager. Tamila is a long-time supervisor from the Asheville Habitat ReStore. Two ReStore associates will round out the small team.

One of the first Habitat ReStores in the country, the Asheville Habitat ReStore opened in 1990 on Biltmore Avenue where it remained for thirteen years. After a major renovation of the donated Pearlman Carpet warehouse, the ReStore settled into its existing site at 31 Meadow Road near Biltmore Village in 2003. Today, the Asheville Habitat ReStore is a leader among 900+ Habitat ReStores nationwide, garners annual recognition as best Used Furniture Store (non-profit) in the Mountain Xpress’ Best of WNC, and has become a destination for shoppers in Buncombe County and beyond.

Please join us in Weaverville on Saturday, August 24th to celebrate the much-anticipated opening of our second ReStore!

 

What One Asheville Woman is doing About Gentrification

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By Greta Bush

As Asheville continues to land on national “Best of” lists, it is experiencing tremendous growth, and with that comes gentrification. In this article, we focus on why gentrification can be a problem and how one young woman is making an effort to prevent it.

 

Kate Rasche moved to Asheville seven years ago to start a new job, unaware that her move could be tied to the growing gentrification affecting the city. She quickly fell in love with Asheville’s eclectic culture and creative vibe. She is grateful to have bought her house in west Asheville in 2012, just before housing prices began recovering from the 2008 crash. Three years later, a short supply and an influx of growth led the city to announce it had an affordable housing crisis.

She feels lucky for her good timing and is now acutely aware that she has contributed to the housing shortage. Kate wanted to join the community, not change it. She never intended to drive up property values and push out lower earners!

Kate wanted to do something to counteract the rapid gentrification in Asheville, and that’s why she joined Asheville Habitat’s #build828 club. Donating a small amount every month is her way to support income diversity and prevent gentrification that pushes people out.

What is Gentrification?

Gentrification occurs when lower cost neighborhoods start to attract wealthier residents. As a result, this can drive up house prices and rents, and drive out long time, lower income residents such as local artists. Gentrification often has a larger impact on ethnic and racial minorities. It always changes the social character of a neighborhood.

The positive side of the process is that homeowners are invested in their neighborhoods. Therefore, they repair or rebuild homes that had been neglected or open businesses in areas that might not have had them.

Why Habitat, and Why #build828?

Kate recognizes that it’s the people who make Asheville the city that she loves. The artists, musicians, and wait staff in this foodie mecca add to the culture, but are often lower earners. Consequently, without supporting those who tend to earn less, the city’s character won’t be preserved. Homeownership is a key to housing stability, and for Kate, “is part of the American dream…having a piece of the world to call your own.”

Originally from Knoxville, TN, Kate had previous experience with Habitat for Humanity in high school. She volunteered with Habitat through a school club and even took a trip to Americus, GA with the group. That’s where she learned about Habitat’s roots. Kate knew Habitat provided stable housing for people with low incomes, and she trusted the organization.

A few months ago, a quick Google search led her to Asheville Area Habitat for Humanity’s #build828 club. It’s a sustained giving club whose members make regular monthly donations. #build828 is a way to answer the affordable housing need and members enjoy benefits like an annual 40% off coupon to the Habitat ReStore! Kate decided that joining could be a way of “shoring up the community that she is a part of.”

Kate’s reasons for joining #build828 made sense:

  • From her administrative work experience, Kate understands the value of regular contributions. It helps any organization to plan ahead and keep their fundraising goals on track.
  • Kate didn’t have a big chunk of money to make a one-time donation. Signing up to make small monthly donations could really make a difference for Habitat and would better fit her situation.
  • She knew that if she were to buy or rent property now, her monthly payments would be much higher. So she felt a call to donate some of the money she is able to save every month to #build828. It’s her way to help others afford homeownership and combat the effects of gentrification.

Habitat for Humanity’s Role

Habitat for Humanity builds and repairs homes—so why is that work not contributing to gentrification? First, Habitat repairs homes so that lower-income residents can stay in their home even as the costs of homeownership rise. Second, Habitat builds affordable new homes in partnership with low-income qualifying buyers so that working class folks can achieve homeownership. Often, the cost of an Asheville Habitat mortgage is less than what the buyer had previously been paying in rent.

Habitat homeowners are artists, bus drivers, food service employees, social workers, healthcare staff, musicians, and more. They contribute to the heart and soul of Asheville’s creative and welcoming vibe. If you’re interested in supporting Habitat’s work and helping more of our neighbors build better futures in the foundation of stable, affordable housing, consider joining the #build828 movement.

Why does Kate think gentrification is a problem?

  • She loves the character of her neighborhood, where an artist lives across the street from her and the creativity in West Asheville is palpable at nearly every turn.
  • She’s worried that rising rents and home costs will force creatives to be unable to live here for much longer. While their contributions to our city’s culture are rich, their work tends to bring in lower wages.
  • She knows this is already happening. Such is the case with “Abby the Spoon Lady” (real name Abby Roach) a downtown performer who declared at a June 2019 City Council meeting that Asheville’s growth is pushing out musicians and artists, including herself. Abby said this would be her last summer in Asheville.

Join the Movement!

If you’re looking for a way to counteract the effects of gentrification, consider joining Asheville Habitat’s #build828 movement! Even $10 a month, the cost of a Netflix subscription, makes a difference. And, the more people who join, the bigger the impact! Not able to give yet? Help us spread the word and consider sharing Kate’s story with a friend. Have your own story to tell? Let us know.

 

Out of the office and onto the land

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By Ariane Kjellquist

“Redistribution of dirt and water,” is not a phrase I expected to hear on my recent tour of Old Haywood, a future Asheville Habitat for Humanity neighborhood. But it’s one of the first things Director of Construction Services Paul Reeves started talking about as we watched the excavator move with precision and he pointed uphill.

Before my visit to the Old Haywood site, I thought I knew what infrastructure and development entailed. Grading, running water and sewer lines and underground utilities, pouring sidewalks and paving roads. It is that– and much more. Going from site identification to construction is a lengthy and complex process; one that includes design, engineering, bidding, contracting and more. It is 2-3 years of work for a project of this size before we can even pull the first permit, pour the first foundation, or frame the first wall!

Within minutes of arriving on site, I learned that the soil being dug up to create a water catchment system near the front of the parcel was going to literally be moved up the hill, redistributed, compacted, checked by an environmental engineer, and eventually built upon.

I also learned that the environmental engineer will visit the site no less than 30 times during the infrastructure and development phase!

I learned too that working with the contours of the land can be difficult. As we walked the property it was evident that building a neighborhood in a mountainous region comes with unique challenges that flatlanders don’t face. Adding townhomes to the mix adds to the complexity. With the larger footprint of townhomes it is even more important that we have – or in this case, create – flatter lots.

And about the water…catching storm water and run-off and moving it safely across the site so it does not impact homes and foundations is part of the development plan, too. For example, an existing culvert will be replaced with a newer and larger one for better flow and performance.

Though I did not fully understand all that is involved in taking an empty lot to a thriving community until recently, I did know that Asheville Habitat has been doing this successfully for decades. Hundreds of families and thousands of individuals have built better futures on the foundation of safe, decent, affordable Habitat homes.

Unfortunately, there are still thousands in our community who need a decent, affordable place to live. And others may have a roof over their head, but just barely. 1 in 6 families in the U.S. pay more than 50% of their income towards housing costs and are forced to make difficult choices when it comes to other basic needs like food, healthcare, and transportation. Asheville Habitat is committed to empowering 1,000 more families to improve their housing in the next decade, and Old Haywood is one step towards this goal.

Old Haywood will be our largest neighborhood to date, with 98 units of affordable housing comprised of both single-family homes and townhomes. This is a bold step for us. But we have a history of being bold– and successful. We invite you to be part of a solution to our region’s affordable housing shortage. Give a gift, become a sponsor, volunteer to help us build, advocate for smart housing policies. Thank you!

 

ReStore Shopping 101

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By Marty Steinberg

“Shopping at the ReStore isn’t like shopping at other stores,” ReStore General Manager Scott Stetson reminds his staff members. “First time shoppers might not know how the green tags work or they might inadvertently walk into the work area. It’s our job to help them navigate the concept of the ReStore.”

It’s true: a first time shopper at the ReStore is generally amazed and impressed, but sometimes a bit confused. Will they have what I’m looking for? Where should I look? What do I do when I find it?

If you’ve come for hardware, large appliances or building supplies, downstairs is the place to be. The lower showroom also features rugs, office furniture and sporting goods, as well as a selection of new tile, vinyl, and laminate flooring and discounted energy efficient light bulbs.

Small items can easily be placed in a shopping cart but large items generally will have a green tag affixed to the item with a date, description and price of the item. The tags are perforated in the middle and if you want to purchase a large item, just separate the bottom part of the tag and bring it to the register. After you’ve purchased an item we can hold it for up to five days so you can make arrangements to pick it up.

If you’re looking for furniture or housewares you may want to walk straight through the lower level to get to the upper showroom. As you proceed to the upper showroom, you’ll see our “mission wall” along the right wall of the lower level and you’ll come to our “donor atrium” once you’ve reached the upper level. Restrooms are located on the left, just before the doors to the upper showroom.

Reconditioned mattresses, new metal bedframes and more LED light bulbs are available upstairs, along with Asheville’s #1 used furniture store (according to Mountain Xpress, Best of WNC) and a large selection of kitchen supplies, linens, lamps, artwork, electronics and jewelry.

On your right, just past the art wall, is the Silent Auction, where shoppers may place bids on some of the most interesting items donated recently. The silent auction recently passed a huge milestone: as of March 20, 2019 one million dollars has been raised since it’s 2005 inception!

If you keep walking back and look left you’ll find our bookstore: it’s a store within a store! Offering much more than just books, it has movies, compact discs, vintage vinyl and Warren Haynes Presents: The Christmas Jam memorabilia. You can even buy a cup of fair trade Guatemalan coffee or tea to enjoy while you browse or sit and page through a book. Proceeds from the sale of this coffee and tea, as well as Guatemalan handicrafts (also in the bookstore area), go to Habitat for Humanity Guatemala to provide coffee farmers with Healthy Home Kits (water filters, smokeless stoves and sanitary latrines).

A few additional tips will help you to shop like a ReStore regular – the kind of shoppers who bring a sharp eye and a pick-up truck when they come to look for bargains!

ReStore regulars know that they should jump on a bargain when they see it. Most people learn the hard way: you walk by an item thinking that you’ll get it on the way out, then you see it going by in someone else’s cart. Bringing a friend to watch an item for you while you ask a staff member or volunteer for help is a great strategy.

New products arrive every day that we’re open, so feel free to check back regularly. We are glad to help you find what you’re looking for on our sales floor: the one thing we can’t do is look through the work area where items have yet to be tested, researched, cleaned and priced.

We’re also glad to clarify a price if there’s any question, but we won’t lower a price on request. If an item sits on the sales floor too long – generally about two weeks from the date it was priced – we may decide to lower the price on our own, so feel free to check back on another day if an item you see is priced above your budget.

Shopping at the ReStore is a great way to stretch your budget, keep usable items out of the landfill and support the mission of Asheville Area Habitat for Humanity. In 2018, the ReStore diverted 1,800 tons of usable items from the landfill, provided 25 living wage jobs and raised funds to build affordable homes in partnership with hardworking families. The ReStore is able to have such an impact thanks to our donors, volunteers, staff members and of course, our satisfied customers.

To learn about the ReStore here.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A lot changes in 25 years

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By Beth Russo

A lot changes in 25 years. Back in 1994, we were watching OJ Simpson in a white Bronco on CNN. Highland Brewery had just opened up in the basement of Barley’s

Members of the Lopez family, owners of the first Women Build house.

Pizza. And a group of women attorneys decided to sponsor the 1st Women Build house built by Asheville Area Habitat for Humanity.

Fundraising flyer from the first Women Build House in 1994

The first Women Build house in Oakwood.

In 1994, the home cost $40,000 to build, and Buncombe County Women Attorneys took the lead in raising funds and providing volunteers to construct this home.

When they were done, the first Women Build house became the Lopez house, home to four generations of women.

Today, local women are still struggling with housing challenges. Imagine living in a rental where the landlord refuses to address the rodent problem. Or fix a leaky water heater, leading to monthly bills of $400. Or having to move your 3 children into your bedroom, to reduce their exposure to black mold.

This is the situation that Quintania Gregg found herself in. Employed full time with CarePartners, this mother of 3 children felt stuck with living in a substandard home because finding another apartment with a monthly rent that she could manage was almost impossible.

She applied for Habitat homeownership, and was approved to purchase Women Build House #14.

Gregg Family

Gregg Family

Once again, the Buncombe County Women Attorneys stepped up to be part of the solution to her affordable housing crisis. They’ve committed to raising $10,000 to support the construction of this home.

BCWA raising money at Rustic Grape.

A few weeks ago, they gathered at The Rustic Grape, a women-owned wine bar in downtown Asheville. After conversation and beverages, the attorneys met Quintania and heard her story. A few days later, construction started on the 14th Women Build house – and the future home of the Gregg family.

The BCWA are in process of raising funds, and look forward to a volunteer day on the site in June. Attorney Susan Russo-Klein of Roberts & Stevens says, “Buncombe County Women Attorneys are proud to support the wonderful work Asheville Habitat for Humanity does to provide affordable housing to families in our community.”

The 14th Women Build home will be completed near the end of 2019. Quintania looks forward to the day she closes and receives her keys, and is grateful to be partnered with women who care deeply about the housing problem in our community. Thank you Buncombe County Women Attorneys and The Rustic Grape!

Asheville Habitat Accepts Environmental Excellence Award

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By Andy Barnett, Executive Director

“What is the use of a house if you haven’t got a tolerable planet to put it on?”

― Henry David Thoreau, Familiar Letters (1860)

Asheville Habitat doesn’t think of itself as an environmental organization, so it came as a little bit of a shock to receive a 2019 Environmental Excellence Award from Asheville Greenworks this spring.  Our understanding of a safe, healthy affordable home is so intertwined with the notion of a “tolerable planet” that it goes unnoticed and unremarked.

Like most of the social justice solutions our community seeks, affordable housing and environmental stewardship are not competing interests. They are “yes, and” solutions. For example, your furniture donation to the ReStore diverts waste from the landfill AND builds affordable homes. When Habitat builds a new home, achieving high energy performance standards reduces our community’s energy use AND saves the homeowner money. Replacing an obsolete heating system in a home reduces the energy demand from our aging housing stock AND it means that an elder in our community can age in place safely and with dignity.

I am grateful for this award as a reminder of the impact of our choices, and a reminder that the best solutions solve multiple problems. As one of many like-minded businesses and organizations advancing environmental stewardship and sustainability in our community, I’m honored that GreenWorks bestowed Asheville Habitat with an award this year.

 

Photo by Angela Wilhelm, Citizen Times